edge

Jonathan Livingston Cat

Pictures courtesy Mark Lyndersay

Picture courtesy Mark LyndersayMy name is Compton Andre Welch Jnr and I firmly believe I have met the reincarnation of a cat I had as a pet when I was a teenager.

I’m 63 years [old] and was born in Guyana but came to Trinidad as a baby. I’m a Trini, natural. Now I see we have Venezuelan Trinis crossing the road in a hustle. They don’t give a damn about traffic lights and cars.

I grew up in Barataria, Fourth Street, Tenth Avenue for, like 20 years, before we moved to Maloney. To the plannings, building five.

I never sired any children over the years because I was self-indulgent. It’s unfortunate. But I have not been corrupted by the woman.

I went to Barataria Boys Primary and that was it. I didn’t have secondary education but I had good parents and good upbringing. They taught us things like, don’t block any door! We got licks for that! I never regretted not going past primary education. I think I was actually fortunate because the spirit guided me to art where I learned more by not going to secondary school.

My dad put me in an area to learn art and, from there, I began. My tutorship was at Angelo Signs and then I went through silkscreen printing. I used to travel to Mucurapo. In those days, the bus was ten cents and I spray-painted a shoe green and I was wearing that. People used to laugh at me, with my green shoes and the hat like Jimi Hendrix I was wearing in those days. I used to listen to a lot of rock music. I played rhythm guitar.

I taught myself to read, write and spell while working at Key Caribbean Publications with Jean De Milliac, Roy Boyke, Jeffrey Mouttet, Erica Williams-Connell, I worked with those people. I had, like, five books on my desk, Patterns of Progress, Homemaker, I had a dictionary. I was teaching myself to proof-read and everything.

Once you’re born with a spirit of service, wanting to be in the mode of action, it will happen for you. I always say that knowledge is power that helps one to make informed decisions.

I was a Roman Catholic and I got baptized in the Spiritual Baptist faith. I don’t follow their teachings but I’ve been to their churches a number of times. I believe in God, of course. There is a spirit, there is something.

BC Pires told me that he wants to call the cat in the Savannah Jonathan Livingston Cat because of the story, Jonathan Livingston Seagull, a story about reincarnation – but I am certain this cat is the reincarnation of a cat I had in Maloney. I used to call him Muh-Knee-Wrow, like the sound of a cat’s miaow, and he would hear me and come and walk all around my feet.

Muh-Knee-Wrow had a white tip on his tail and I used to have him playing for hours with a tennis ball in building five, where my dad had an apartment. I used to bring him outside 4 o’clock in the morning to hunt a lizard or whatever. He was my real pardner and I think it was very fortunate that this spirit found me again, after so many years.

I don’t know if he will be taken from me, or me from him, again. But this relationship with this cat is what I call love. I don’t know if I am his best friend but he is definitely my best friend.

Someone offered to purchase a pet-carrying cage for me, so I can take him with me. I stay in a backyard now. Not a room, a backyard. I sleep under a galvanized roof. It rains and I get wet but I put up a bike box and I sleep on cardboard.

I have come down in the world. I brought myself to this level only because, maybe, I had to learn certain lessons. Of course there was drugs involved: marijuana. For years this was me, giving trouble, smoking all the time.

Picture courtesy Mark LyndersayIt was in my teenaged years, when I gave up cycling. I gave my parents real trouble. I don’t know if I should call it a regret because we all have karmic lessons and, if my mom had a hard life because of me, it was because she had some karma to work out. But I feel for it, what I put my parents through, and what I put myself and other people through. Because I have seen people upset with me in many areas over the years I’ve lived.

The system puts teenagers under tremendous emotional and mental pressure to go to their friends, who lead them astray. They tell you that your friends lead you but they don’t bring you back. The hard road back is to work. I don’t consider myself back [yet] but I’m alert to certain things. I’m always backsliding. It plays on my mind.

I found myself living in a storeroom and relapsing, using drugs over-and-over-and-over. But since last September, I’m clean again, not even Christmas cake, nothing, no alcohol, no cigarettes, nothing.

It’s hard, coming back. It’s hard. I don’t attend Narcotics
Anonymous meetings anymore because, from my learnings, I told them, at my time to share, “My name is Compton and I’m NOT an addict.”
In this realm, we will be addicted, some will tote Bibles – and they couldn’t stand the truth I brought them and they throw me out the meeting. Since then, I never went back. I think misery needs company.

I’m being very honest and open here. I met someone who told me I was the first honest man he ever met in his life. So that says something for me.

I’m not settled in the backyard but it’s what I have right now. My brother has made opportunities for me which I, apparently, let him down. But, the way I always view it, “If you teach a person to fish, you feed him for a lifetime.”

So far, nobody has offered me an [art] exhibition, so I could set myself up. It takes maybe $3-, $4-, $5,000 to set one up at the Art Society. I lived in the toilets there for, like, two years, but then I was evicted, I don’t think through any fault of mine but, they told me, for security reasons.

I don’t know for what reason why I paint so good. People have said my work would be world-famous, if I could get a break, if I could go outside [Trinidad]. Things happen in its time. I have been holding it back, keeping myself down, I believe that – but for what reason, I don’t know. Maybe I’ve found it [with this cat].

This cat looks after me. I think so. When I’m near him, he watches me, watches me, watches me. I want him for a companion back home in my backyard. But, then, I think he’s better off where he is now and I don’t want to move him. I try to protect where he sleeps, so water doesn’t get in.

I visit him every day, at least twice a day, morning and evening. Sometimes three times, four times, depends on when I get a chance to run away. I help out at Mike’s Bikes and Rituals: mop; sweep; run errands. I get a little stipend, not much. I get coffee and sandwiches at Rituals. But, for the artist, money is not important. The happiness I found, painting and creating, just like the Creator did with us, that’s the joy in it for me. If money comes from the pleasure of what I do, well, thank you!

It’s a hard living for an artist. I try to hold back my tears but, what I have found out here is very, very hurtful.

I feel connected to the birds. Insects. Everything. The birds do answer me, fly over me and make a whistle. Once you’re feeding the birds, they see your spirit, just like cats see your aura. Those things are real. People call me “Birdman” but I prefer “Bird” because I’ve developed quite a number of birdcalls and whistles. Over the years, I’ve become a vocal percussionist!

A seer woman walked into a shop where I was and she told me, “You see you, people won’t be able to understand you, you have to talk to the birds!” And I realised that people laugh at me, at the things I say, I’m somewhat of a comedian.

I feed the cat every day. Sometimes I buy food for him before I buy food for myself.

I like music but there’s one song that really grabs me, by Carole King, “You’ve Got a Friend.” When you’re down and troubled/ And you need some loving care/ And nothing, oh nothing is going right. That whole song speaks of a higher force, Jesus, Jah, Allah, God.

There is that love connection between species. Imagine that this spirit in this cat found me again! The same character that cat had in Maloney is this same spirit that came back in the Savannah to meet me. The one in Maloney, we were separated. A lady told me it crawled up in a car and [suffocated] but she really gave it to a neighbour.

Someone at the top of Tatil building heard my birdcalls already. They said, “Boy, you could whistle real hard, boy!” I can sing, too. It’s all art.Picture courtesy Mark Lyndersay

I move around on a bicycle, for years. Used to do 60 miles a day, 30 in the morning, 30 in the evening, 60 on a Sunday. Every cycle ride in the morning is a different ride, every stop sign is a different situation. The equation for speed is distance over time so, the younger you get people, the more mileage they will get. The thing is, you hold them back, so they will get mature – in their speed.

The bike is a form of transport. It gets me around. And it keeps me fit, even over the age of 60. I don’t race any more.

I have my fears of death because I don’t know what to expect. I have not lived a certain way and sorted out things. So I believe karma will get me! Karma will get me in the end!

We all have the same mind, blood, foot, leg, everything. But we have changed ourselves to what we are: beings on a spiritual journey within a physical experience. So that’s how we make ourselves different – but we are all the same!

When people lose the connection with Nature and God, they tend to be lax. I would like Trinidadians to find their way back, to find a better purpose to be around for. When people start to cherish, when little things mean a lot, then things can happen. But if we all take breaking traffic lights for granted, you’re programming yourself to be permanent in it and a lot more people will be hit at red lights!

Not necessarily in this order but a Trini is gullible, lovable, lackadaisical, the majority of them, and somebody who has a lot of freedom. Now the Trinis would stand up on the pavement and block it and I wouldn’t say anything, I would walk in the road and go around them but that is what it means to be a Trini. But, still, Trinis will help a vagrant or a homeless [person]. Trinis are genuinely nice people.

Trinidad & Tobago means home to me. It’s the only place I’ve ever known since my dad brought me here as a baby on Carnival Tuesday. I’ve never been throughout the island to see its full history and so on. It’s unfortunate that I fell into the wrong area, through the crack, you know, or I would probably have done a lot more.

Jonathan Livingston Cat

Pictures courtesy Mark Lyndersay

Picture courtesy Mark LyndersayMy name is Compton Andre Welch Jnr and I firmly believe I have met the reincarnation of a cat I had as a pet when I was a teenager.

I’m 63 years [old] and was born in Guyana but came to Trinidad as a baby. I’m a Trini, natural. Now I see we have Venezuelan Trinis crossing the road in a hustle. They don’t give a damn about traffic lights and cars.

I grew up in Barataria, Fourth Street, Tenth Avenue for, like 20 years, before we moved to Maloney. To the plannings, building five.

I never sired any children over the years because I was self-indulgent. It’s unfortunate. But I have not been corrupted by the woman.

I went to Barataria Boys Primary and that was it. I didn’t have secondary education but I had good parents and good upbringing. They taught us things like, don’t block any door! We got licks for that! I never regretted not going past primary education. I think I was actually fortunate because the spirit guided me to art where I learned more by not going to secondary school.

My dad put me in an area to learn art and, from there, I began. My tutorship was at Angelo Signs and then I went through silkscreen printing. I used to travel to Mucurapo. In those days, the bus was ten cents and I spray-painted a shoe green and I was wearing that. People used to laugh at me, with my green shoes and the hat like Jimi Hendrix I was wearing in those days. I used to listen to a lot of rock music. I played rhythm guitar.

I taught myself to read, write and spell while working at Key Caribbean Publications with Jean De Milliac, Roy Boyke, Jeffrey Mouttet, Erica Williams-Connell, I worked with those people. I had, like, five books on my desk, Patterns of Progress, Homemaker, I had a dictionary. I was teaching myself to proof-read and everything.

Once you’re born with a spirit of service, wanting to be in the mode of action, it will happen for you. I always say that knowledge is power that helps one to make informed decisions.

I was a Roman Catholic and I got baptized in the Spiritual Baptist faith. I don’t follow their teachings but I’ve been to their churches a number of times. I believe in God, of course. There is a spirit, there is something.

BC Pires told me that he wants to call the cat in the Savannah Jonathan Livingston Cat because of the story, Jonathan Livingston Seagull, a story about reincarnation – but I am certain this cat is the reincarnation of a cat I had in Maloney. I used to call him Muh-Knee-Wrow, like the sound of a cat’s miaow, and he would hear me and come and walk all around my feet.

Muh-Knee-Wrow had a white tip on his tail and I used to have him playing for hours with a tennis ball in building five, where my dad had an apartment. I used to bring him outside 4 o’clock in the morning to hunt a lizard or whatever. He was my real pardner and I think it was very fortunate that this spirit found me again, after so many years.

I don’t know if he will be taken from me, or me from him, again. But this relationship with this cat is what I call love. I don’t know if I am his best friend but he is definitely my best friend.

Someone offered to purchase a pet-carrying cage for me, so I can take him with me. I stay in a backyard now. Not a room, a backyard. I sleep under a galvanized roof. It rains and I get wet but I put up a bike box and I sleep on cardboard.

I have come down in the world. I brought myself to this level only because, maybe, I had to learn certain lessons. Of course there was drugs involved: marijuana. For years this was me, giving trouble, smoking all the time.

Picture courtesy Mark LyndersayIt was in my teenaged years, when I gave up cycling. I gave my parents real trouble. I don’t know if I should call it a regret because we all have karmic lessons and, if my mom had a hard life because of me, it was because she had some karma to work out. But I feel for it, what I put my parents through, and what I put myself and other people through. Because I have seen people upset with me in many areas over the years I’ve lived.

The system puts teenagers under tremendous emotional and mental pressure to go to their friends, who lead them astray. They tell you that your friends lead you but they don’t bring you back. The hard road back is to work. I don’t consider myself back [yet] but I’m alert to certain things. I’m always backsliding. It plays on my mind.

I found myself living in a storeroom and relapsing, using drugs over-and-over-and-over. But since last September, I’m clean again, not even Christmas cake, nothing, no alcohol, no cigarettes, nothing.

It’s hard, coming back. It’s hard. I don’t attend Narcotics
Anonymous meetings anymore because, from my learnings, I told them, at my time to share, “My name is Compton and I’m NOT an addict.”
In this realm, we will be addicted, some will tote Bibles – and they couldn’t stand the truth I brought them and they throw me out the meeting. Since then, I never went back. I think misery needs company.

I’m being very honest and open here. I met someone who told me I was the first honest man he ever met in his life. So that says something for me.

I’m not settled in the backyard but it’s what I have right now. My brother has made opportunities for me which I, apparently, let him down. But, the way I always view it, “If you teach a person to fish, you feed him for a lifetime.”

So far, nobody has offered me an [art] exhibition, so I could set myself up. It takes maybe $3-, $4-, $5,000 to set one up at the Art Society. I lived in the toilets there for, like, two years, but then I was evicted, I don’t think through any fault of mine but, they told me, for security reasons.

I don’t know for what reason why I paint so good. People have said my work would be world-famous, if I could get a break, if I could go outside [Trinidad]. Things happen in its time. I have been holding it back, keeping myself down, I believe that – but for what reason, I don’t know. Maybe I’ve found it [with this cat].

This cat looks after me. I think so. When I’m near him, he watches me, watches me, watches me. I want him for a companion back home in my backyard. But, then, I think he’s better off where he is now and I don’t want to move him. I try to protect where he sleeps, so water doesn’t get in.

I visit him every day, at least twice a day, morning and evening. Sometimes three times, four times, depends on when I get a chance to run away. I help out at Mike’s Bikes and Rituals: mop; sweep; run errands. I get a little stipend, not much. I get coffee and sandwiches at Rituals. But, for the artist, money is not important. The happiness I found, painting and creating, just like the Creator did with us, that’s the joy in it for me. If money comes from the pleasure of what I do, well, thank you!

It’s a hard living for an artist. I try to hold back my tears but, what I have found out here is very, very hurtful.

I feel connected to the birds. Insects. Everything. The birds do answer me, fly over me and make a whistle. Once you’re feeding the birds, they see your spirit, just like cats see your aura. Those things are real. People call me “Birdman” but I prefer “Bird” because I’ve developed quite a number of birdcalls and whistles. Over the years, I’ve become a vocal percussionist!

A seer woman walked into a shop where I was and she told me, “You see you, people won’t be able to understand you, you have to talk to the birds!” And I realised that people laugh at me, at the things I say, I’m somewhat of a comedian.

I feed the cat every day. Sometimes I buy food for him before I buy food for myself.

I like music but there’s one song that really grabs me, by Carole King, “You’ve Got a Friend.” When you’re down and troubled/ And you need some loving care/ And nothing, oh nothing is going right. That whole song speaks of a higher force, Jesus, Jah, Allah, God.

There is that love connection between species. Imagine that this spirit in this cat found me again! The same character that cat had in Maloney is this same spirit that came back in the Savannah to meet me. The one in Maloney, we were separated. A lady told me it crawled up in a car and [suffocated] but she really gave it to a neighbour.

Someone at the top of Tatil building heard my birdcalls already. They said, “Boy, you could whistle real hard, boy!” I can sing, too. It’s all art.Picture courtesy Mark Lyndersay

I move around on a bicycle, for years. Used to do 60 miles a day, 30 in the morning, 30 in the evening, 60 on a Sunday. Every cycle ride in the morning is a different ride, every stop sign is a different situation. The equation for speed is distance over time so, the younger you get people, the more mileage they will get. The thing is, you hold them back, so they will get mature – in their speed.

The bike is a form of transport. It gets me around. And it keeps me fit, even over the age of 60. I don’t race any more.

I have my fears of death because I don’t know what to expect. I have not lived a certain way and sorted out things. So I believe karma will get me! Karma will get me in the end!

We all have the same mind, blood, foot, leg, everything. But we have changed ourselves to what we are: beings on a spiritual journey within a physical experience. So that’s how we make ourselves different – but we are all the same!

When people lose the connection with Nature and God, they tend to be lax. I would like Trinidadians to find their way back, to find a better purpose to be around for. When people start to cherish, when little things mean a lot, then things can happen. But if we all take breaking traffic lights for granted, you’re programming yourself to be permanent in it and a lot more people will be hit at red lights!

Not necessarily in this order but a Trini is gullible, lovable, lackadaisical, the majority of them, and somebody who has a lot of freedom. Now the Trinis would stand up on the pavement and block it and I wouldn’t say anything, I would walk in the road and go around them but that is what it means to be a Trini. But, still, Trinis will help a vagrant or a homeless [person]. Trinis are genuinely nice people.

Trinidad & Tobago means home to me. It’s the only place I’ve ever known since my dad brought me here as a baby on Carnival Tuesday. I’ve never been throughout the island to see its full history and so on. It’s unfortunate that I fell into the wrong area, through the crack, you know, or I would probably have done a lot more.